Thursday Aug 18, 2022
Thursday Aug 18, 2022

Pandemic, hunger force thousands into sex work in Mexico


Nepalnews
2021 Apr 10, 9:30, MEXICO CITY
Sex worker Geraldine wearing cat make-up sits on her usual corner as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. Geraldine, 30, a sex worker since age 15, says many of her regular clients have stopped coming amid the coronavirus pandemic and that seeing new clients presents new health and security risks. She is most concerned about the risk of bringing COVID-19 home to her partner, who has diabetes. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

 Hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic have forced former sex workers in Mexico back into the trade years after they left, made it more dangerous and reduced some to having sex in cars or on sidewalks for lack of available hotels.

Claudia, who like most of the sex workers interviewed asked to be identified only by her first name, had stopped working the streets a decade ago after she married one of her former clients. But when her husband lost his job early in the pandemic, the couple fell four months behind on rent for their apartment.

The only solution Claudia saw was to go back to working the streets.

“It was an income in order to eat, to pay the rent we owe,” said Claudia, who now owes only one month back rent. “It is hard to come back and see so many of my fellow workers from the old days, my era, going back to do the same thing ... to see all the problems out there.”

Sex worker Laura, 62, waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. In addition to increased competition and fewer clients, sex workers in the area have to contend with many clients who only want to pay with crack cocaine, or who insist the women smoke with them, leaving recovering drug users like Laura in the difficult position of having to turn down work in order to protect her year of sobriety. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Laura, 62, waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. In addition to increased competition and fewer clients, sex workers in the area have to contend with many clients who only want to pay with crack cocaine, or who insist the women smoke with them, leaving recovering drug users like Laura in the difficult position of having to turn down work in order to protect her year of sobriety. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Claudia, who a decade before the coronavirus pandemic hit had stopped working the streets after marrying one of her former clients, strikes a deal with a client before heading to a hotel, in central Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. When Claudia's husband lost his job early in the pandemic, the couple fell four months behind on rent for their apartment, so Claudia returned to the streets. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Claudia, who a decade before the coronavirus pandemic hit had stopped working the streets after marrying one of her former clients, strikes a deal with a client before heading to a hotel, in central Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. When Claudia's husband lost his job early in the pandemic, the couple fell four months behind on rent for their apartment, so Claudia returned to the streets. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Laura, a 62-year-old transgender woman who began working Mexico City’s streets 40 years ago, wages a daily battle to stay housed. If she gets a client that day, she can perhaps afford a cheap hotel room for the night. If she doesn’t, she sleeps on the street.

Laura said many of her clients have lost their jobs and can no longer pay her. At one point she had to pawn her telephone, her only contact with some of her regulars.

“Some days you don’t have anything to eat. ... You might eat one day and not the next,” said Laura. As for avoiding coronavirus, “I put my trust in God” and hand sanitizer.”

Things are even harder for older sex workers like Laura, because thousands of new sex workers have pushed onto the streets as the pandemic forced closure of restaurants and shops.

Sex workers raise their fists in solidarity after telling stories about their personal experiences, during a nationwide virtual event to advocate against human trafficking and in favor of rights and recognition for sex workers, ahead of International Women's Day, at the offices the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex workers raise their fists in solidarity after telling stories about their personal experiences, during a nationwide virtual event to advocate against human trafficking and in favor of rights and recognition for sex workers, ahead of International Women's Day, at the offices the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - A sign reminds sex workers to use "coronasutra" positions to reduce face-to-face contact and the risk of contracting COVID-19, at the offices of the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Friday, March 5, 2021. Director Elvira Madrid says she knows of 50 sex workers in Mexico City who have died of COVID-19. She and her husband, fellow organizer Jaime Montejo, caught it themselves; he died of it in May. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - A sign reminds sex workers to use "coronasutra" positions to reduce face-to-face contact and the risk of contracting COVID-19, at the offices of the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Friday, March 5, 2021. Director Elvira Madrid says she knows of 50 sex workers in Mexico City who have died of COVID-19. She and her husband, fellow organizer Jaime Montejo, caught it themselves; he died of it in May. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Elvira Madrid, who leads the activist group Street Brigade in Support of Women said her group found 15,200 sex workers on Mexico City’s streets in August, about twice the number before the pandemic.

“The surprise was that there were more. On every street corner — it was surprising,” she said.

Madrid estimates 40% of those on the streets now are women who had left the trade but were forced to return by the pandemic, another 40% are new to the profession and 20% are part-time or occasional sex workers.

“A lot of the other ones — the other 40% — had been waitresses who had never worked in the sex trade before,” she said. “You know, when they closed the restaurants, people have to eat and have to give their kids what they need. And then the single mothers — most of them worked in stores, clothing shops, bars, cosmetics.”

“They cried because they said, ‘I don’t want to do this, but I have to feed my kids,’” Madrid said. “But there was another 20% that surprised us more. They were housewives, women with grocery bags who did it for 50 pesos, or whatever they needed to buy food. They didn’t protect themselves (use condoms) because they didn’t consider themselves sex workers.”

Madrid said she knows of 50 sex workers in Mexico City who died of COVID-19. She and her longtime companion, fellow organizer Jaime Montejo, caught it themselves, and he died of it last May. The sex workers who congregate outside one subway station believe Montejo caught the coronavirus while helping them, and Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday last fall they erected an altar to him in the plaza where many of them work.


Sex worker Elena sheds tears as she describes the family sexual abuse and trafficking that led her into a life of prostitution starting at age 15, at the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in central Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Elena sheds tears as she describes the family sexual abuse and trafficking that led her into a life of prostitution starting at age 15, at the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in central Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Madrid estimates sex workers have lost 95% of their income due to the pandemic.

Conditions that have always been tough for the women who ply the trade in Mexico City — violence by clients and gangs who prey on prostitutes and shakedowns by corrupt police — got even worse during the pandemic.

Rules of the partial lockdown forced many hotels to close, and others raised the prices they charge sex workers. That left some earning the equivalent of only $3 or $4 from each client.

Madrid said that after hotels closed or raised prices, some people started renting rooms or storefronts to sex workers, who found the landlords were taping them with clients and demanding payment in exchange for not posting the videos on the internet.

Now, Madrid said, the women have to take clients wherever they can.

“Everybody finds wherever they can to have sex, in cars, on the sidewalks,” she said. “They have started to look for someplace safer to work, because the hotels closed.”

Most of the hotels have reopened, but many have raised their prices.

In spite of fewer clients, lower earnings and more risks, thousands of women see no option amid the pandemic but to stay out on the streets of the capital, spending hours waiting in the hot sun or on dark corners. And on many days they still go home to hungry families with no income at all.

Rocio, 50, who began sex work for the first time last year after losing her $200/month job as a house cleaner due to the coronavirus pandemic, is reflected in the display window of a lingerie shop in central Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Unable to find a new job as a cleaner that paid more than half of her previous one, Rocio decided to try sex work; after an initial spike of interest as a new woman on the street, she found herself still earning far less than her previous salary, and struggling to support her family. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Rocio, 50, who began sex work for the first time last year after losing her $200/month job as a house cleaner due to the coronavirus pandemic, is reflected in the display window of a lingerie shop in central Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Unable to find a new job as a cleaner that paid more than half of her previous one, Rocio decided to try sex work; after an initial spike of interest as a new woman on the street, she found herself still earning far less than her previous salary, and struggling to support her family. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A sex worker naps on a bench as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. Despite the common perception that sex work equals easy money, many of the longtime sex workers struggle to stay housed and to afford enough to eat, particularly since profit margins have plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, with more competition, fewer clients, and increased hotel prices. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A sex worker naps on a bench as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. Despite the common perception that sex work equals easy money, many of the longtime sex workers struggle to stay housed and to afford enough to eat, particularly since profit margins have plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, with more competition, fewer clients, and increased hotel prices. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Laura cries as she talks about having to pawn her cell phone the day before in order to eat, after running out of money to pay for her rented room at the end of February, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. After more than 45 years as a street sex worker, Laura, 62, says she has known a new level of poverty since the pandemic began. "I have lived many beautiful times, and now sad ones. But I'm still living." (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Laura cries as she talks about having to pawn her cell phone the day before in order to eat, after running out of money to pay for her rented room at the end of February, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. After more than 45 years as a street sex worker, Laura, 62, says she has known a new level of poverty since the pandemic began. "I have lived many beautiful times, and now sad ones. But I'm still living." (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex workers wait for clients on a corner in central Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Elvira Madrid, who leads the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", said that her group found 15,200 sex workers on the city's streets in August 2020, about 40% more than had worked in the trade before the coronavirus pandemic hit. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex workers wait for clients on a corner in central Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Elvira Madrid, who leads the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", said that her group found 15,200 sex workers on the city's streets in August 2020, about 40% more than had worked in the trade before the coronavirus pandemic hit. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine, wearing cat make-up, excitedly holds up a dress she is thinking of buying from a street vendor, so that her partner, sitting nearby to keep her company, can see it, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. According to Geraldine, 30, the pandemic has cut clients and increased risks to the sex workers but has also brought out more assistance for them too, both from dedicated organizations such as the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade" and from individuals who have donated food or clothing. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine, wearing cat make-up, excitedly holds up a dress she is thinking of buying from a street vendor, so that her partner, sitting nearby to keep her company, can see it, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Saturday, March 13, 2021. According to Geraldine, 30, the pandemic has cut clients and increased risks to the sex workers but has also brought out more assistance for them too, both from dedicated organizations such as the activist group Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade" and from individuals who have donated food or clothing. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran sex worker Carolina waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. Hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic have forced former sex workers in Mexico back into the trade years after they left, made it more dangerous, and reduced some to having sex in cars or on sidewalks for lack of available hotels. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran sex worker Carolina waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. Hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic have forced former sex workers in Mexico back into the trade years after they left, made it more dangerous, and reduced some to having sex in cars or on sidewalks for lack of available hotels. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran sex workers Carolina and Angora, split a small meal, as they wait for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran sex workers Carolina and Angora, split a small meal, as they wait for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A sex worker who fainted from not eating enough on the stairwell outside the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", is treated by Dr. Geovanna Alva, right, assisted by a nurse, inside the organization's treatment room in Mexico City, Friday, March 5, 2021. "The Street Brigade" advocates for recognition and respect for Mexico's sex workers, offers them discount medical care, leftover prescription drugs and provides free classes including basic literacy, high school equivalency, and nursing skills. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A sex worker who fainted from not eating enough on the stairwell outside the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", is treated by Dr. Geovanna Alva, right, assisted by a nurse, inside the organization's treatment room in Mexico City, Friday, March 5, 2021. "The Street Brigade" advocates for recognition and respect for Mexico's sex workers, offers them discount medical care, leftover prescription drugs and provides free classes including basic literacy, high school equivalency, and nursing skills. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex workers sit together playfully during a nationwide virtual event to advocate against human trafficking and in favor of rights and recognition for sex workers, ahead of International Women's Day, at the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex workers sit together playfully during a nationwide virtual event to advocate against human trafficking and in favor of rights and recognition for sex workers, ahead of International Women's Day, at the offices of Brigada Callejera or "The Street Brigade", in Mexico City, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Angeles walks out of the building where she and her partner, also a sex worker, live together in a small rented room with a shared hallway bathroom, as she heads back to work after running home to pick up forgotten high heels, in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The 65-year-old who is living with HIV takes her health seriously and appreciates that since the coronavirus pandemic hit, hotels are requiring face masks and hand sanitizing, and are spraying disinfectant in the rooms between customers. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Angeles walks out of the building where she and her partner, also a sex worker, live together in a small rented room with a shared hallway bathroom, as she heads back to work after running home to pick up forgotten high heels, in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The 65-year-old who is living with HIV takes her health seriously and appreciates that since the coronavirus pandemic hit, hotels are requiring face masks and hand sanitizing, and are spraying disinfectant in the rooms between customers. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine, 30, holds hands with her partner Miguel as she arrives outside the Revolution subway station to wait for clients, in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. Miguel, who has been told to stay home from his job at a call center since his diabetes puts him at high risk for coronavirus complications, now spends his days accompanying Geraldine to work, exchanging jokes and the occasional kiss as he sits nearby, giving her snacks during the long hours of waiting, and keeping an eye on clients to help her stay safe in an area with high levels of crime and drug use. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine, 30, holds hands with her partner Miguel as she arrives outside the Revolution subway station to wait for clients, in Mexico City, Sunday, March 14, 2021. Miguel, who has been told to stay home from his job at a call center since his diabetes puts him at high risk for coronavirus complications, now spends his days accompanying Geraldine to work, exchanging jokes and the occasional kiss as he sits nearby, giving her snacks during the long hours of waiting, and keeping an eye on clients to help her stay safe in an area with high levels of crime and drug use. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Homeless sex worker Angora, 27, tries to entice passing men with flirty poses and banter after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. For hours that day she had been trying to get a client. Finally a man had offered her 50 pesos or $2.50 U.S. dollars for oral sex, but as soon as they went to the darkness of a nearby park, he grabbed her bag and ran, taking the only money she had, $5.00 U.S. dollars, and a prized personal possession, the handbag. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Homeless sex worker Angora, 27, tries to entice passing men with flirty poses and banter after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. For hours that day she had been trying to get a client. Finally a man had offered her 50 pesos or $2.50 U.S. dollars for oral sex, but as soon as they went to the darkness of a nearby park, he grabbed her bag and ran, taking the only money she had, $5.00 U.S. dollars, and a prized personal possession, the handbag. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine's skirt blows up in the breeze as she is seen through the reflective window of a parked car while waiting for clients near the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Thousands of new sex workers have pushed onto the streets as the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of restaurants and shops. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Geraldine's skirt blows up in the breeze as she is seen through the reflective window of a parked car while waiting for clients near the Revolution subway station, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Thousands of new sex workers have pushed onto the streets as the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of restaurants and shops. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A 27-year-old sex worker who goes by the name Angora shows the tattoo she had done to remember her 14-year-old brother Jose, who was murdered back home in Honduras after becoming an assistant to a group of horse thieves, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Angora says the competition for clients since the coronavirus pandemic began has exacerbated discrimination against immigrant sex workers from Central America in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A 27-year-old sex worker who goes by the name Angora shows the tattoo she had done to remember her 14-year-old brother Jose, who was murdered back home in Honduras after becoming an assistant to a group of horse thieves, as she waits for clients outside the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Angora says the competition for clients since the coronavirus pandemic began has exacerbated discrimination against immigrant sex workers from Central America in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Lulu, waits for clients at her usual corner in central Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Unlike younger, newer sex workers who may not feel empowered to push back on demanding clients, after two decades in the trade, the 55-year-old sex worker said her prices and health measures are non-negotiable and she will let a client go rather than put herself at risk or work for only a couple of dollars. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Lulu, waits for clients at her usual corner in central Mexico City, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Unlike younger, newer sex workers who may not feel empowered to push back on demanding clients, after two decades in the trade, the 55-year-old sex worker said her prices and health measures are non-negotiable and she will let a client go rather than put herself at risk or work for only a couple of dollars. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Homeless sex worker Angora, 26, waits outside a hotel as she tries to earn money after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Rules of the partial lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic forced many hotels to close, and others raised the prices they charge sex workers. That left some earning only three or four dollars from each client. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Homeless sex worker Angora, 26, waits outside a hotel as she tries to earn money after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Rules of the partial lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic forced many hotels to close, and others raised the prices they charge sex workers. That left some earning only three or four dollars from each client. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Angora, 27, sits along the street as she tries to earn money after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, near the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Conditions that have always been tough for the women who ply the trade in Mexico City - violence by clients and gangs who prey on prostitutes, and shakedowns by corrupt police - have gotten even worse during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Sex worker Angora, 27, sits along the street as she tries to earn money after having her bag stolen by a man pretending to be a client, near the Revolution subway station in Mexico City, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Conditions that have always been tough for the women who ply the trade in Mexico City - violence by clients and gangs who prey on prostitutes, and shakedowns by corrupt police - have gotten even worse during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
activist group Street Brigade Support of Women sex workers Mexico City pandemic part-time or occasional sex workers sex trade stores clothing shop
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